TORONTO - QMI Agency football authority Mike Ganter takes an early look at Week 8 in the NFL:
1. Battle of the first-year quarterbacks
All-world rookie Cam Newton vs. late-coming rookie Christian Ponder. Newton has already established his bona fides, having been under centre since Week 1. Ponder, the guy the Bills were extremely interested in but not at No. 3 overall, makes his second start after a solid showing against the Packers in his first start Sunday. Donovan McNabb is done in Minny and the job is Ponder’s, albeit a little earlier than the team wanted to make the decision. McNabb forced their hand. Ponder won’t match Newton’s running game, but he is a smart quarterback with a good arm. It should be an interesting matchup.
2. Anyone for a car wreck?
He and the Saints offence torched Indy for 62. Can 70 or more be out of the question against a Rams offence that gave up over 250 yards rushing to little known DeMarco Murray? Darren Sproles may not be as big as Murray, but he’s a lot more experienced and has a better handle than the Dallas back on how to make a defence miss. The Rams look every bit the part of a football team teetering on the brink of giving up and the last thing they want to see is a Saints offence functioning at peak performance. There shouldn’t be much mystery as to the outcome but the chance of seeing a real car wreck is very much in play and that always attracts a crowd.
3. Air show comes to Pittsburgh
Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger have their respective passing games operating at peak capacity. Brady’s is obviously flying a little higher but he’ll be going up against the best pass defence in the NFL in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger can more than make up for that facing the worst pass defence in the league. We don’t expect Pittsburgh’s defence to shut down Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez completely but at this point you would have to give Pittsburgh the edge playing at home. New England may have the best pass offence in the league, but Pittsburgh is No. 9, a far cry from the 1 vs. 32 split on the defensive side.
4. Philly has Romo on the menu
The Eagles have the pundits convinced they have turned the tide and are beginning to play like the Eagles we expected to see. A win in Washington followed by the bye week should help matters but who really knows with this bunch? What we do know is the leather-lunged Philly fan not afraid to break any social taboo as long as it demeans the opponent will be out in full force. And unless we’re totally off our rocker Tony Romo will get plenty of his attention. How Romo, whose season would make a yo-yo sick with all it’s ups and downs, fares will be well worth tuning in for.
5. Are these Chiefs for real?
Two weeks into the season it looked like it was already all over for the Chiefs. Spanked by both the Bills and the Lions and losing about one key player a week with first Ed Berry and then Jamaal Charles out for the year, the Chiefs were among the frontrunners in the Suck for Luck derby. But not now, not after three consecutive wins and a close loss to San Diego on their turf. Now back to 3-3 they have the opportunity for a little payback on those Chargers who come to K.C. a little beaten down after coughing up a winnable game against the Jets. Who knows? Todd Haley could be coach of the year when all is said and done.
“I do know this, that you can’t play good defence if you don’t tackle. Our guys are tackling high. They know that. They heard that from me. They understand it. And until they decide that they’re going to tackle the way it’s coached, and the way we ask them to do it, it’s probably not going to change. It’s a mindset. Guys have to buy into it. I thought we were a fairly decent tackling football team. We always have been, but that was not what I saw today.”
— Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo attempts to explain how his football team allowed journeyman running back DeMarco Murray to rush for 253 yards against his defence.
HYPE WE’RE BUYING
The Falcons are turning it around. If they had pulled off this one at home, we’d still be skeptical but going into Detroit, where the Lions had just lost its first game and coming out with a win speaks volumes. Matt Ryan could still use a lot more protection in front of him but getting Michael Turner back to Michael Turner-type rushing attempts is a very nice start.
HYPE WE’RE NOT
Sorry Tim Tebow. It was a great story-book finish but you’re going to need to do more than beat a sad-sack Miami Dolphins outfit before we believe you’re a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL. Just can’t get past the first three and a half quarters of Sunday’s game to believe anything different.
This has been a season-long decline but so far Kevin Kolb has escaped our criticism. The supposed franchise quarterback the Cards got from Philly has been anything but — producing just one win. His 78.8 quarterback rating is 26th worst in the league and he’s fumbled six times and been picked off seven other times while producing just seven touchdowns. Bottom line, Kolb is having a bad year. But at a guaranteed $21.5-million through 2015, he is getting a much longer rope from head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Matt Forte needs to get paid. The Bears running back is almost single-handedly winning football games for Chicago and management is playing hard-line negotiations with the fourth year back. His 145 yards rushing including a touchdown was the difference-making in Chicago’s win over Tampa Bay in London on Sunday. He’s a threat running the ball and catching the ball. He makes Chicago look dangerous and that is as good a reason to pay him as anything.
ON THE HOT SEAT
Indy head coach Jim Caldwell has been given a pass of sorts to this point because all of his losing was thought to be the result of losing his quarterback. Well, Caldwell still doesn’t have Peyton Manning, but now he has a defence that appears to have quit on him and that is his fault. He said as much himself after the 62-7 shellacking his team suffered at the hands of the New Orleans Saints. If he hadn’t said it, someone would have said it for him. These Colts look a mess despite some real talent on both sides of the ball.
DAN BILICKI’S FANTASY PICKS
INDIANAPOLIS AT TENNESSEE
How can both of these teams not be licking their lips today?
Indianapolis is coming off a game in which they allowed 62 points and Tennessee gave up 41.
The Colts also gave up 557 total yards, including 236 on the ground to the Saints. The Titans allowed 518 total yards, including 234 to Arian Foster alone.
If these defences are really that bad, this one should keep the scoreboard operators working.
The Titans do have an edge here though: The Colts are allowing an astounding 72.8% of passes attempted to be completed.
And this could also be the week Chris Johnson finally shows us why he deserved to go in the first round of every fantasy draft. But we were hoping that would happen before Week 8.
CLEVELAND AT SAN FRANCISCO
While hosting Seattle on Sunday, the Cleveland Browns could only manage six measly points — and somehow won the game.
This week, they’ll be flying out to San Francisco to face the second stingiest team in the league for scoring. The 49ers are allowing 16.2 points per game, behind only Baltimore’s 14.2 allowed.
The Browns already struggle to move the ball against any defence. They’re dead last in yards per passing attempt and are third worst in yards per carry.
It also doesn’t help that the Niners are coming off their bye week, so they’ll be rested and ready to get after Colt McCoy.